They arrived in the UK at the beginning of April, to find that it was still very cold weather. It was less than 5 degrees when they arrived, which took a bit of getting used to. The cold weather meant that there was very little in the way of Spring growth – most of the gardens and trees were still bare. For this reason, Barb and Gerard didn’t really take the opportunity to visit any major gardens - it's always nicer to see a garden when it's at its best!
One place that they visited that was the Eden Project in Cornwall. Eden is a charity and is a social, environmental and educational enterprise. The project is located in a reclaimed kaolinite pit. The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species. Plants have been collected from all around the world and are displayed in artificial biomes. (Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms - biomes are often referred to as ecosystems.)
At the Eden Project, each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal inflated plastic cells, supported by steel frames. The first dome emulates a tropical environment, and the second a Mediterranean environment.
There was a solid message on conservation throughout the Eden Project.
In the Mediterranean Biome, Barb and Gerard saw lemon trees, olives trees, vines and perfumed herbs. The journey through the biome takes visitors on a colourful journey through the warm, temperate regions of the world - equating to the conditions one would find in the Mediterranean, South Africa and California.
The tulip beds were gorgeous.
The Rainforest Biome contains the largest jungle in captivity. It contains the world of steamy rainforests, complete with luscious tropical plants, a huge crashing waterfall and a canopy lookout.
The rest of the garden was also very interesting, with a number of inspiring sculptures, including a sculpture called "Ploughing the hemp fields", a wonderful garden with statues of Bacchus et al, celebrating wine, and another sculpture representing the waste produced by a single human in a lifetime.
There were beautiful plantings throughout the gardens and cowslips everywhere.
Barb and Gerard also visited Cornwall’s Flower Show, where they enjoyed seeing the lovely displays of daffodils (in vases not in the garden).
Visiting the UK in Spring meant that throughout the duration of their trip, daffodils were the main flower on display throughout the countryside.
A beautiful display of flowers for sale at a Dublin street stall.
By the time Barb and Gerard got to Ireland, the bare trees were just beginning to show new leaves and Spring green. They enjoyed traveling through the rolling countryside despite having rain most days. In some areas of Britain, the rocky pastures must make ploughing difficult! - The fields are all full of flinty stones which must be almost impossible to get rid of. No wonder all the homes are built from stone.
Barb and Gerard enjoyed seeing the different bird life in England - they saw crows, robins, pheasants and Canadian geese.
One of the work-related parts of this trip was making a visit to the graphic designer who works on the Kings Seeds catalogue each year (an Englishman who worked on the catalogue here in NZ before returning to the UK where he continues to work for us).
Barb and Gerard also visited one of Kings Seeds major sunflower suppliers who are based in the Lakes District. On this visit there was a lot to talk about but little to see, as all production of sunflowers is based in California and other sunnier places.
Another interesting visit was made to CN Seeds at Pymoor, near Ely in Cambridgeshire, to meet the owner Chris Nye. He is currently running some interesting trials on microgreens - breeding and selecting out attractive strains of mustard, mizuna, beet, spinach and rocket suitable for the gourmet baby leaf market. He also works with coriander, looking at the slow-bolting and pungency characteristics. It was a fascinating afternoon, made more so by his fine herd of Shorthorn cattle - completely unrelated to seed but a passion all the same.
After several weeks of less than desirable weather, Barb and Gerard finally got to enjoy some sunshine and blue skies to prove that they do actually get nice weather in England, even if short-lived. Back to the real world now with rain, rain and more rain here in NZ and grass up somewhere near their windowsills!